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Monday, November 29, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Libyan President Mumammar al-Qadhafi apparently keeps a 'voluptuous blonde' Ukranian nurse named Galyna Kolotnytska at his side at all times. According to one cable: 'the Libyan Government sent a private jet to ferry her from Libya to Portugal to meet up with the Leader during his rest-stop. Some embassy contacts have claimed that Qadhafi and the 38 year-old Kolotnytska have a romantic relationship. While he did not comment on such rumors, a Ukrainian political officer recently confirmed that the Ukrainian nurses 'travel everywhere with the Leader.' The cable says Kolotnytska is always with Qadhafi because 'she alone knows his routine.' Imagining this routine is the mental equivalent of the nuclear bomb Libya was trying to build in the early 2000s." (Gawker via NYT)


"Beijing has recoiled at reining in its unruly neighbor to the east, as the Obama administration implored it to do last week, because it doesn’t want to destabilize North Korea’s secretive, hermit regime to an extent that could lead to the government’s collapse and the North’s eventual reunification with South Korea. 'China isn’t 100 percent on board with U.S. efforts,' said Andrew L. Oros, an Asia expert at Washington College, in Chestertown, Md., because Beijing is 'concerned with the idea of a unified Korea with U.S. troops stationed there.' That concern has left a succession of American governments attempting the impossible. 'Basically, the U.S. wants China to do what the U.S. wants it to do,' said Rodger Baker, vice president for strategic intelligence at Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company. 'We want to make sure that the world stays as the United States would like to see the world. Which means making China subservient to us in some cases. In the case of North Korea, the Chinese see it as the United States pushing its policy on China and not allowing the Chinese to make their own policy, while removing from China one of the tools that it has decided it needs for its own interests.'" (HeleneCooper)

"Why anybody bothered to make Burlesque or give it such a wide release might be a mystery. Until it's revealed that Screen Gems chief Clint Culpepper greenlighted his boyfriend's $55+ million passion project. (Their on-set strife over budget, schedule, and creative decisions resulted in the most expensive film in Screen Gems history, and word is they're now broken up after 20 years. Awkward.) But novice director Steven Antin deserves at least some credit for bringing back Cher to the big screen: they both dated David Geffen, and the mogul urged Cher to take the role. She hasn't had a major film since 1999's Tea With Mussolini and is a bonafide national treasure. But am I the only one who can't stand Christina Aguilera's hammy vocal stylings or Steven's sister Robin Antin 'Pussycat Dolls' slutty dance gyrations? " (NikkiFinke)


"When the rescue package of Ireland—or was it of the British and German banks?—was announced, the headline in one of Ireland's main newspapers was 'Declaration of Dependence.' As the centenary of the Easter Uprising is fast approaching, this headline is not without some ironic resonance. Angela Merkel has in effect become the new ruler of Ireland, a kind of 21st-century Henry II, using clout of the financial rather than the medieval kind. I phoned a friend in Dublin in the way that one phones a friend in a city of 11 million people when there has been a serious accident in which 17 people have been injured, to find out whether he was all right. 'Everything's fine,' he said. 'Just give us time, and we'll get out of this mess. About two millennia.' It's hard to imagine Irish wit cutting much ice with Frau Angela. Assuming a zero rate of interest and no population growth, every man, woman, child and baby in Ireland would have to pay back $250 a year for 2,000 years to clear the debt (the precise figure, by my calculation, is 1,936 years, based on one estimate of Ireland's total external debt, but what is 64 years among friends, or creditors?)." (WSJ)



"Having arranged to meet for lunch, I am told to wait in front of a central landmark at a certain time. The time passes; I am about to call when a car detaches itself from the traffic and shoots towards me. A man gets out, the bulge of his pistol beneath his short coat, says 'Lloyd?', apologises for the delay and opens the back door of the car. His colleague drives as we race back into the traffic and through the city to a hotel ... One of the police escorts waits with me: he says he decided to join the Carabinieri in his native Sicily 'because there’s nothing for the young there: some of my friends joined the black economy'. Once he had passed a check done on his parents and grandparents – they were apparently untouched by crime or Mafia – he was sent to the mainland, spent some time in uniform, then volunteered for escort training ('though I knew it was more dangerous') and was detailed to guard Roberto Saviano. It is four years since the publication of Gomorrah, the Naples-born writer’s description of life under the Camorra, the Neapolitan crime syndicate. Part journalism, part reportage in the first person, part autobiography, the book is a hybrid. Vivid flashes of observation are juxtaposed with bitter denunciations of cruelty and indifference. Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford and one of the world’s foremost scholars of organised crime, says Saviano makes clear not just the brutality of the Camorra, but also the way they have their claws dug so deep into Neapolitan society (and far beyond). What made the book especially valuable, he says, is the way 'he showed how they are useful to a section of the people: they provide credit, they allow investments in their drugs and other businesses and then pay interest; they will stamp on competition. And he didn’t just write about them as a local phenomenon: he showed how they are tied into global networks: he showed that they affect you and me.'" (FT)


"A few blocks from Istanbul’s most fashionable district, you’ll find a filthy bus station. The waiting crowds have just visited the bustling city, but not as tourists. They came to sell their own body parts. Welcome to the growing world of organ trafficking. 'Brokers travel to poor villages in countries like Moldova and ask who wants to donate a kidney,' explains Riccardo Neri. whose recent documentary, HOT, investigates the practice. 'Then they put them all on a bus to Istanbul, take the kidney out and send them back without any follow-up care. The doctors don’t care if the donor dies on his way home' ... Criminal groups pay poor Moldovans, Nepalis, Filipinos, South Africans, Egyptians, Brazilians and others for their organs. 'Donors are sometimes brought to a neighboring country,' says Nadey Hakim, a London transplant surgeon. 'But because you can’t transport organs very far, the recipients usually go to where the donors live. That’s why there are world-class hospitals in desperately poor cities.' The trade function is thanks to dirty surgeons, who are able to make a fortune on the deals. While a broker may get $500 per organ, the doctor gets most of the recipient’s fee of some $50,000. 'And the recipient may die anyway,' notes Hakim." (Metro)



"America preys on its pop stars. Kanye West is a perennial victim. He has been scorned by two American presidents, not to mention the rest of the nation. He was asked by Jay Leno—in the midst of an apology to Taylor Swift—what his dead mother would have thought of his infamous insult to her at MTV's Video Music Awards. He was forced to apologize to Matt Lauer for saying, five years ago, that George W. Bush was a racist. The more Mr. West apologizes, the less likely we are to leave him alone. He speaks to this in 'Power,' a blistering commentary on fame from his new record My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. 'I just needed time alone with my own thoughts,' he says. 'Reality is catchin' up with me.' He sounds delirious with frustration. The music behind him, all fire and brimstone, starts with violent battle drumming, follows with the pierce of a prison siren and moves into the song's hook, a sample of King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man.' The song is, in other words, the sound of reality attempting to catch up with Mr. West and failing. 'No one man should have all that power,' he declares before finally concluding-joyously-'This will be a beautiful death.'" (Observer)


"Choreographer Benjamin Millepied became so obsessed with Natalie Portman on the set of 'Black Swan' that he paid less attention to other dancers on set, a source says. "They would go to do their shots and wouldn't know any of the choreography because he was so involved with helping 'Natalie, Natalie, Natalie,' all the time,' an insider tells Page Six Magazine, out on Thursday. 'There was a lot of drama.' The source also suggested New York City Ballet principal dancer Millepied dumped his ballerina girlfriend Isabella Boylston for Portman to social-climb. 'Maybe they have a great relationship . . . But knowing Benjamin, I don't think that's how it is,' the source said." (PageSix)



"Newspapers are the business Rupert Murdoch loves most—and now he’s betting their future on an app. Early next year, he will launch The Daily, the first newspaper produced exclusively for the iPad. So far, we’ve heard a lot about one specific aspect of that bet: the talent Murdoch has recruited to produce it, which includes New Yorker pop critic Sasha Frere-Jones as culture editor and “Page Six” ’s Richard Johnson is overseeing entertainment coverage. There’s also been a lot of discussion of the business plan by media reporters and bloggers wondering whether The Daily will sell enough of its $.99-per-week subscriptions, and ads, to cover News Corp.’s investment. But a third, potentially more significant aspect has gone largely unexplored, and that’s The Daily’s politics. With The Daily, Murdoch is doing something rare in his long career: building a media property from the ground up rather than reinventing an existing paper, as he did with the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. He’s using the opportunity to try to craft a major new editorial voice for the marketplace. In stark contrast to those of Murdoch’s existing American papers, The Daily’s politics will be centrist and pragmatic—Bloobergian, if you prefer—according to people close to the project." (NYMag)


"Agyness Deyn doesn’t look like a media entrepreneur. She’s tall and very slender (she is a model, after-all) with signature short bleached blond hair. She’s 26 years old, but in the right light she looks considerably younger—like a 21-year-old NYU student, but with better clothes. All in all, she’s an unlikely aspiring media mogul. Last July, Deyn and Fiona Byrne, a close friend from Dublin, quietly started a new site—half blog, half online magazine—called NAAG—the name comes from the combination of the two founders’ names—the 'NA' in Fiona and ‘AG’ in Agyness. The concept, they say, was to create a publication that reflected their interests and downtown lifestyles. 'The idea is that these are places and things that we like, things that we like to do, things that we like to wear, things that we listen to—all of that stuff,' Byrne says, over coffee with Deyn at the Bowery Hotel on an unusually warm Saturday in mid-November. As such, the site features short stories about fashion, music, and culture, featuring everything from reviews of chic hotels and hip restaurants and beauty products to interviews with cultural figures. As NAAG’s Creative Director, Deyn oversees 'the broader picture' of the site, and scouts for interesting models to work with and brainstorms ideas. 'We discover content when we’re out hanging out,' she says. It’s unclear how much time Deyn spends day to day on the project, though she points out that it is very much a serious venture for her. 'This is not just a hobby,' she says." (TheDailybeast)

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